Autism is a complicated disorder that is neurologically based. Autism is a spectrum, that is why it is known as ASD) with these being the most distinctive characteristics:
1. Communication challenges which may mean using sign language, communication boards, or another augmentative means for communication
2- Challenges with social-interaction
3 – Repetitive tasks or vocalizations
4- Can be overwhelmed sounds (eg. sirens) , lights (such as those on an ambulance), and even a light touch.
5- Some with Autism do not transition well and depend on routine. Changes in routine, such as during an evacuation – can prove problematic.
A child with Autism can best be helped by having preparedness opportunities – learning via practice about the sights, sounds and other aspects of what may happen in the event of an emergency or disaster. Social stories also help with preparedness. Examples of social stories via Pinterest here (and other professional sites)
Things to have on hand on hand if an individual with Autism needs to be evacuated or placed in an unfamiliar setting:
Shirt with a hood to decrease noise and visual sensations
Toys such as a Slinky(tm) or small car to help with transition. (Circular and shiny items are often desired items)
iPad or Tablet to help with communication and occupy time
Augmentative devices used by the child, including language boards or cards
Any transition object that the child uses on a regular basis
Someone familiar with the child- if at all possible, including a peer or assistant
During a disaster an autistic person may be prone to flee, hide or react in a much different than expected manner as compared to typical peers.
It is important to keep the person with Autism supervised.
If a person with Autism is missing please check bodies of WATER – such as pools, ponds, etc.
Spirit of Autism – A Paramedic’s viewpoint and suggestions for helping those with Autism by a mom with an Autistic son.
Autism Speaks – A highly recommended resource for parent and professionals